|Publication number||US7628064 B1|
|Application number||US 11/656,074|
|Publication date||Dec 8, 2009|
|Filing date||Jan 19, 2007|
|Priority date||Jan 27, 2006|
|Publication number||11656074, 656074, US 7628064 B1, US 7628064B1, US-B1-7628064, US7628064 B1, US7628064B1|
|Inventors||David Miller, William M. Hess|
|Original Assignee||David Miller, Hess William M|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (11), Referenced by (11), Classifications (9), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/762,928, of the same title, filed Jan. 27, 2006.
This invention relates to laboratory apparatus for the automated measuring of the volume of liquid in sample containers arranged in sets, such as sample tubes in tube racks and sample wells in well trays. In particular, the apparatus utilizes an ultrasonic sensor to detect the height of liquid in a tube cavity or well cavity and determine the volume from an algorithm that calculates the volume from the shape of the cavity and the height of the liquid surface from the bottom of the cavity. The automated measuring apparatus includes optional auxiliary sensors, such as a camera, to visually inspect and record the status of a cavity or the identity of a sample or samples from a marking adjacent the cavity or on a surface covering the cavity.
A primary object of this invention is to create an automated measuring device for a variety of laboratory containers for the purpose of quality assurance, sample management and other purposes.
The method of this invention is to take the automated measurement of the volume of various laboratory racks and plates or other grouped containers by use of an ultrasonic transducer being passed over the associated cavity position to measure the height of matter in the cavity which would then be interpolated to indicate the volume of the material in the particular cavity.
While typical laboratory racks and plates or other sets of grouped containers are frequently positioned based on standard spacing, there is no requirement that they be so spaced for the automated measuring system of this invention. Many standard plates and racks are based on a matrix of 98 or 384 wells or tubes. Non standard or random spacing could be addressed by the invented device as well by appropriate programming.
This device would provide an accurate method of collecting interpolated volume data in a rapid fashion.
Other methods currently in use to establish volumes and or weights of tubes or racks containing tubes or containers are to weigh each associated tube or container. Assuming that the tube had been previously tare weighted, the weight of the contents could be determined. However, with laboratory well plates or trays there is no easy solution. The wells are customarily formed as part of the plate and do not have removable containers. As such, individual cavities cannot be removed to be measured for volume or weight. The automated measuring device of this invention solves this problem by measuring the liquid level in the cavity.
The ultrasonic height and volume measuring instrument of this invention is an automated laboratory apparatus for determining the volume of liquid samples contained in the cavities of laboratory sample collectors, such as well trays or tube racks. In addition, the automated laboratory apparatus optionally includes an imaging device, such as a digital camera, to capture an image of the contents of a cavity or a marking on or adjacent to a cavity. The imaging device can also capture a marking, such as a bar code, on the sample container to identify the rack or tray or determine the orientation of the rack or tray.
There are two typical operations required to accurately determine the volume of material in a particular well cavity. First, is to establish the height measurement of each empty well cavity. Then, measure the same well cavity after the material is placed into the well cavity. This will establish the physical vertical dimension of the liquid. For volume, it would be necessary to use a calculation factor established for each type of cavity to be measured since the cavities are usually not constructed of parallel sides and flat bottoms, but rather of some variation of a conical shape. The same procedure can be applied to test tubes in a rack.
Mechanically, to measure the individual containers in a rack or tray, the rack or tray would be placed in a fixture on a support carrier. Upon electronic signal, the carrier would retract into the machine to align a sensor over the first row. The sensor would travel transversely over the row, taking height measurements over each of the cavities. Once the row is complete, the support carrier would further retract into the machine and the sensor would again travel over the next row, taking the next set of measurements and so on until all rows would have been measured. Once all measurements have been completed, the support carrier will fully extend for removal of the rack or tray. The measurements could be taken in the retraction motion, extension motion, or a combination of both.
The particular methodology described is only one example as the sequence of measurement can be programmed for any specified pattern. For instance, instead of addressing rows, the device could be configured to address the columns at right angle to the rows or any other regular or random sequence that the user required.
Multiple passes for confirming minimum heights may be desirably to avoid a false reading which could, for example, be caused by a drop on the side of a container and not the actual bottom of the cavity. These passes might be in a predetermined pattern or could be deliberately set to be random for quality assurance purposes.
Sensors may detect:
The test instrument 10 has a housing 20 providing a protective enclosure with a front 22 having an opening 24 with an extendable and retractable platform carrier 26 adapted to seat a tube rack 12, as shown, or a typical well tray (not shown). The rack 12 is positioned on the platform carrier 26 by retainer pegs 28 which are located in selected positioning holes 30 for the particular multi-cavity sample collector, such as a tube rack or well tray.
On the front 22 of the housing 20 are basic control switches 32 and indicator lamps 34 for “on” and “operating.” The housing front 22 has a sloped portion 36 that provides a convenient mounting surface for other operating controls and displays for a stand-alone device as noted.
The deck 40 is supported at one end by the back wall 38 and at the other end by the bridge structure 42. The deck 40 projects through an opening 72 in the bridge structure 42 and supports a carriage rail 74 on which the platform carrier 26 is slidably supported.
The platform carrier 26 has a bracket 76 fastened to the carrier 26 with an arm 78 connected to a belt 80 of a belt drive 82. The belt drive 82 has a drive motor 84 and guide spools 86 mounted to the deck 40 for transporting the platform carrier 26 forward and aft over the deck 40 and allowing the carrier 36 to be extended outside of the housing 20 as shown in
During operation, the power supply 88 is activated and the controller 44, under command of the associated computer 18, displaces the support carrier 26 fore and aft over the deck 40 and displaces the ultrasonic sensor 46 back and forth across the track 52 on the cross member 54 of the bridge structure. In this manner, the sensor can be selectively positioned over any and all tubes in a tube rack or wells in a well tray mounted on the support carrier 26. When appropriately positioned, the controller activates the sensor and retrieves a reading that is processed to provide a calculated volume of liquid in the measured container. This information is further processed and/or recorded as required by the user.
As noted in this specification, the cavities for the removable tubes contained in the rack or the fixed wells in the well plates or trays are not cylindrical, but usually have sloped sides and flat or rounded bottoms. However, the liquid volume can easily be calculated from an algorithm defining the cavity with surface height as the variable that is measured by the sensor. Greater accuracy is naturally provided by measuring each cavity when empty and subsequently measuring the cavities when filled. However, the cavities are typically uniform and, given the known or sensed depth of one cavity, the liquid height and, hence, volume can be determined by sensing the liquid level in the set of cavities of a given tube rack or well tray seated in the measuring device.
The measuring device can also be used for other operations, such as the automated check for caps, and for proper cap insertion as well as the absence of a tube or tubes in a rack.
In addition to the primary test for liquid volume in the tubes in a tube rack or wells in a well tray, the measuring device can be equipped with an auxiliary sensor to capture an image of each tube or well.
As shown in the partial side view of
As shown in
Preferably, transport control for the digital camera 92 in both the X and Y directions is independent of the ultrasonic sensor 46 and utilizes a similar search and mapping routine to establish the size, number and layout of the tubes in a tube rack or cavities in a well tray. In a dedicated system that only operates for a specific size rack with a specific number of tubes, for example, the transport protocol can be combined with a known one row off-set for the camera with relation to the ultrasonic sensor by appropriate relative positioning of the camera and ultrasonic sensor.
The addition of the camera expands the capability of the system which can be varied by the software application programs typically processed in the auxiliary computer 18. For example, the camera can check any tube that the ultrasonic sensor detected having a cap or check a location the sensor detected to be empty. The camera can be used with a bar code processing program to identify tubes with bar code marked caps or identify bar code markings on racks or well trays. Additionally, the camera can be used as a visual verification of the contents of a tube or well cavity with the image stored for visual reference in association with the volumetric content of cavities.
The software application program is designed for user customization to tailor the automated operations with the laboratory procedures being implemented. The application program includes the customary data storage, visual display and reporting capabilities, typically required in managing multiple tube and well processing systems.
As previously noted, with a programmable procedure, the transport protocol can be varied by the operator with the sensors stopping at each cavity in a row before the platform is incrementally moved in or out or in a custom pattern devised by the operator.
While in the foregoing, embodiments of the present invention have been set forth in considerable detail for the purposes of making a complete disclosure of the invention, it may be apparent to those of skill in the art that numerous changes may be made in such detail without departing from the spirit and principles of the invention.
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|U.S. Classification||73/149, 422/63|
|Cooperative Classification||G01F23/296, G01F23/0076, G01F22/00|
|European Classification||G01F23/00G1A, G01F23/296, G01F22/00|
|Jul 19, 2013||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Aug 28, 2013||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Aug 28, 2013||SULP||Surcharge for late payment|
|Feb 22, 2017||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8